The Somali Tribe

The Somali tribe have a different background than most other Kenyan tribes, as the majority of this tribe resides in the nation of Somalia.

There are between 20 and 25 million Somali people, with about half a million living in north-eastern Kenya: the Ajuran and the Ogaden sub groups. Both of these groups are also found in Ethiopia as well as Kenya and Somalia.

The Somali have existed long before the creation of the Somali nation, and refers to a tribe not necessarily a nationality.

History of the Somali

The Somali are grouped as a Cushitic tribe (different from the Bantu or Nilotic tribes found through the rest of Kenya), and likely have their origins in Ethiopia.

Their lands were colonized by the British, Italians, and French. In 1960, the independent country of Somalia was created from the British and Italian territories. The French colonies would also gain independence later, to form Djibouti.

The Ogaden War between new Somalia and Ethiopia, broke out in 1977 as Somalia attempted to claim lands in Ethiopia that were inhabited by the Somali people. This region is still under contention between the two countries. Other conflicts and civil war have made the nation of Somalia unstable to this day.

Somali Religion

Due to extensive contact with Arabs along the coasts, the majority of the Somali are Muslim and have been for nearly a thousand years now. This makes the Somali tribe different from its neighbors, and has created tensions with Christian tribes in Ethiopia.

Somali Culture and Lifestyle

As a Muslim people, many of their customs are based in that religion. Women often wear head or body coverings, and pork is not part of the Somali diet.

Their language is called Somali, and though there are some dialects, the language is primarily the same through the entire population of the tribe. Language is very important to the Somalis, who place high value on poetry, speech and general linguistic skill.

Marriages are often arranged between a young bride and older groom. Suitable matches are made through clan alliances, though the practice is not as common today.

Though female circumcision is fairly common throughout the tribes of Kenya, it is found in its most extreme forms among the Somali tribe. Young girls have much of their genitalia cut out completely, leaving scar tissue and frequent infections. The practice remains common in spite of government attempts to discourage it.

Relates pages:

Tribes in Kenya - Main page
List of Kenya tribes with short descriptions

From Somali Tribe to the Homepage